Dale Finucane wished his trip home to Bega in February was "on a more positive note" but he's been recognised for leading the Storm's bushfire relief efforts in the area.
The Melbourne lock, along with teammates Ryan Papenhuyzen, Tui Kamikamica and Aaron Pene, travelled to the far south coast of NSW for a weekend to rebuild fences, run junior footy clinics and participate in other activities to boost the spirits of locals.
For his integral role in the club's bushfire response, as well as various other community endeavours, Finucane is nominated for the Ken Stephen Medal - proudly brought to you by My Property Consultants.
"It is a great honour and it wasn't really expected to be honest. We've got a lot of guys within our team that do a lot of great things off the field and in the community," the 29-year-old said.
"But I'm very proud of being nominated for the award, particularly for something that's close to my heart in what occurred over the summer back home."
Finucane was in Bega over Christmas last year and he distinctly remembers a particularly "ominous" day.
"I was back at my wife's parents' house ... It was midday and it was really dark outside," the NSW Origin forward said.
"So we ended up coming back to Melbourne quite quickly after that and got out of there before too much bad happened.
Back to Bega
"In the days and the weeks following that it really struck the far south coast community."
When he returned to the region a couple of months later, the Bega Roosters junior was taken aback by the devastation.
"I haven't lived at home for over 10 years now but I often go during my break," he said.
"And to see some of the areas that had been struck by the fire and buildings that are gone and people's houses that have been lost, it was very surreal and very sad to see that happen in the community.
"You look at a lot of the farmers - we went out to one of the farmer's places and I think he'd lost over half a million dollars of his assets in the fencing and the cattle and sheep.
"Those sorts of things are irreplaceable. It was very much a learning curve for me, going and seeing all the destruction that had occurred.
"I would rather go back under different circumstances and on a more positive note, but in saying that I was really happy to come and help in a very small way ... Obviously the kids were very grateful for having some of the NRL guys run a clinic for them."
Elsewhere, Finucane has enjoyed volunteering with the Salvation Army where he has served meals and met those in need.
"There's a lot of people up there [at the Salvation Army] that are familiar with rugby league and they enjoy watching it," he said.
"A few of the boys get up and have Q&As and those sorts of things. It's a really good feeling to be able to give back in a very small way."
Listen to Finucane talk about the few days he spent in Griffith on the NRL's Road to Regions tour in 2019 and you can understand why he's always made sure to give his time generously.
"Getting to do those [football] clinics really brightens up those kids' days," he said.
"I remember when I was in primary school and we had a couple of NRL players come from a number of different clubs. That'd be the highlight of your year, really.
"It didn't matter if you didn't even know who the players were, as long as they had the NRL badge on and whatever team it might've been ... The excitement of the kids was unreal.
"To be able to be one of the people that came down and was wearing one of those shirts and to be able to bring a bit of joy to people's day was pleasing."